How to Do Life When Your Partner is Away on Business

frustrated mother looks at laptop while her son stands behind her holding a beach ball

I am sort of new to my husband being away more often for work. Sure he’s gone places in the past, but it was usually not for long periods of time, and usually not far away from home. When we moved back from an international assignment in France last summer, my husband was promoted from managing one technology center to managing three. One center is here in Houston, one is in Gatwick, England, and the other is in Mumbai, India.

We knew this meant at least one trip per year to India, and probably two to England. Ultimately, that didn’t sound too bad for someone who is in charge of two centers across the globe. When it was finally time for him to start his travels, I tried very hard to mentally prepare for his absence, and manage ALL THE THINGS on my own here. That didn’t stop me from crying when he left for England about a month ago. And again when he left for India a week ago.

I know I am a strong, independent woman and that I am perfectly capable of doing everything on my own. I will never forget that one time that we had moved to France and were staying in a tiny apart-hotel for exactly one week before my husband turned back around to Houston for a conference. I was in a foreign country, I didn’t yet know the language, where to find anything, how to drive there, or where to even go grocery shopping for our tiny kitchenette. Somehow, I figured it out, we all survived, and my kids still speak fondly of that darn apart-hotel that I so odiously despised.

Now here we are back in Houston, and he is jet-setting to these very far-away destinations. The distance doesn’t help. When we’re awake, he’s asleep and visa-versa. I tend to wake more often throughout the night when he’s gone due to some unknown subconscious anxieties. And I count down the days until he’s back. I know I will eventually get used to this and not dread it so much whenever it comes around. I also try to keep perspective, as I am fully aware of all of the parents whose partners travel for work, and all the single parents out there who have become such professionals at single parenting that I wish sometimes I could take a class to learn from them.

By trial and error, and by some sound advice from other mom friends, I have figured out and compiled 10 tips, life hacks, and perspectives {especially now that I am working full-time} while my partner is away on business that I believe anyone might find helpful if they are a feeling a little out of their depth:

1. Ask your partner to distribute their trips throughout the year as evenly as possible.

Yeah…this whole one week gone, one week back before turning back around thing is just not gonna work for me. Just when I began feeling a sense of relief from the shared efforts in our household, he was gone again and the stress came right back. If your partner has any sort of control over when they travel for business, I highly recommend they spread it out to give you more of a break in between. We will be changing what that looks like the next time around.

2. Find and/or pay for help throughout the week.

I am fortunate to have my parents and my mother-in-law, who offer to pitch in when they can. Whether it involves picking my kids up from school a few days of the week, or coming for an entire day if my husband’s trip falls on a weekend or a day off school. The one issue with relying on family to help is that you are at the mercy of aligning their schedules with yours, which doesn’t always work out. One of the weeks my husband was gone, my mother-in-law was gone as well. I felt her absence big time. If you have the means, consider hiring a part-time nanny, babysitter, or driver to help be an extra set of hands. Depending on how I feel in the future, I might consider hiring someone, and taking help from family simultaneously.

3. Don’t make lunches!

Hot lunch at school exists for a reason. It is a fail-safe backup plan for those that are either too busy to add packing lunches into their daily routine, or it just plain makes them miserable to do so. I personally reserve one day a week for hot lunch, just to give myself a break, and for the kids to have a warm meal. During my husband’s second trip, I realized after day 2 of lunch packing, that it was just too hard to do it, along with getting myself packed for the whole day at work. I threw my hands up and told the kids they are getting hot lunch the rest of the week. They were totally fine with that, and my sanity slowly came back.

4. Do the bare minimum of chores each day.

I kept finding myself staying up way too late at night trying to do it all…the dishes, the laundry, taking out the trash, etc. It got to the point where I would finish, fall into bed, and be unable to sleep because I didn’t give myself any down-time to relax and unwind. I started experimenting with getting mostly caught up with the laundry before my husband would leave, so I would only wash and dry a load here and there when I had second. For the {hand-washed} dishes, I would clean the things I knew we needed the next day and basically rinse the rest and leave them in the sink. When I had a minute, I would wash one or two of those items. And by the time my housekeeper came {who comes once a week}, she did the rest. My point is that even if disorder is hard for you to stomach, it’s important to let go a little and remember that you can’t do it all. Well, you can, but who knows how mentally healthy you will be.

5. Find a person to vent to when it gets really hard.

My sister-in-law has been enduring the “husband traveling for work” thing for several years now, and while she still finds it hard and exhausting, she has figured out her own life hacks and loopholes. She also asks for help when she can. Still, the emotional side of it takes a toll. I have listened to her a lot and have always respected her tenacity in accepting this lifestyle. Now that I am in the same boat and my partner is away on business a lot, she has begun to listen to me and encourage me. Sometimes we just commiserate, and that helps too.

6. Get a good night’s sleep.

Lack of sleep only intensifies the emotions and depletion of energy to power through. Since having kids, going to bed at a decent hour has always been a struggle for me. I need downtime and I love having time to myself. Unfortunately, I tend to only get it in the later hours of the night. Once the traveling started, and I was using all my alone time doing chores, I became so sleep-deprived that I was quite worthless by about 4pm each day. That’s why I started scaling back on the chores. I even put a focus setting on my phone that alerts me at a certain hour to stop and begin my wind-down for bed. I’m still not quite getting the rest I need, but working towards that goal little by little eventually adds up and makes a difference.

7. Remind yourself of the strides your partner is making in their career.

Everything they are doing professionally leads back to them advancing their careers and moving closer to their goals. This advancement goes hand in hand with wanting the best for their family. They are working hard to provide the lifestyle you both want. The harder everyone works, the harder everyone can play. Keep your eye on the prize. Maybe it’s that trip to Disney World you want to take. Or that new car you want. When your partner is away on business, it is only bringing you closer to those desires.

8. Make plans to do one larger self-care activity once your partner returns.

Most likely, you won’t have the time to think much about yourself while your partner is away on business. Book a massage, a mani-pedi, a lunch and shopping trip with your mom, sister or friend. Allow that activity to be the “light at the end of the tunnel” to get you through the hard parts. It will all be worth it when someone is massaging your feet and you don’t have a care in the world.

9. Avoid residence while your partner is away on business.

Yes, your partner is technically getting a break from the kids and all of the chores. Yes, they are sleeping in a big bed by themselves and probably eating out at some fabulous restaurants. But they are also missing you. They are feeling guilty that they can’t be home to help. And they wish they could be in two places at one time. It’s easy for me to feel resentful toward all the things my husband “gets to do” while he is away. But he also kind of deserves it, and making him feel worse than he already does is only going to cause issues in our relationship. It’s counterproductive to our goals as a family unit, and sometimes I just need to stop feeling sorry for myself.

10. Give yourself grace

We hold ourselves to such high standards and tend to expect the impossible from ourselves. Remember that you are only human, and you don’t have to be “on” in every realm of your life all of the time. That’s too much pressure, and not practical. If you’re worried about what others might think of you if you slack a bit while your partner is away on business, remember that no one is really paying attention. And because they already know you’re a good mom and human being, they likely won’t even notice a difference.

Do you have a partner who travels frequently? What are some tips you have for other moms when their partner is away on business?

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